A hand-painted plate from Pablo Picasso's "Visage Noir" series of ceramics, discovered at a Salvation Army by Nancy Cavaliere. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

It’s every thrifter’s dream. Several years ago, a New York woman purchased several ceramic dishes at a Salvation Army store for $8, then found out they were actually rare plates made by Pablo Picasso. She sold them for over $40,000. 

The woman, Nancy Cavaliere, recently recapped the story of her discovery on TikTok. The video has since been shared thousands of times. 

It was the summer of 2017, Cavaliere recalled, when she stopped by her local Salvation Army on her way home from work. At first, little caught her eye. “I see nothing. I almost leave,” she said.

But after another pass by the china aisle, she spied four black plates with geometric faces hand-painted on them. They were $1.99 each. “I was going to buy them to make a tablescape,” Cavaliere said in the video. 

She made the purchase, but after a few online searches, she realized she had something more valuable on her hands. The plates, it turned out, belonged to Picasso’s “Visage Noir” series of hand-painted ceramics, produced in a pottery studio in the southern French town of Madoura in the 1940s. 

“When I tell you I googled this set… and saw how much they were worth and almost cried, passed out, pissed on myself—I’m not lying,” Cavaliere said. 


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The woman then contacted various New York auction houses—Sotheby’s, Christies, and Bonhams among them—to have the plates authenticated and appraised. They were each worth $3,000 to $5,000, Cavaliere was told. 

The following year, she sold three of her four plates at Sotheby’s for roughly $12,000, $13,000, and $16,000, respectively. “I was in my office at my lunch break watching this live auction go down, crying my eyes out,” she said. 

The fourth piece, which bears Picasso’s signature, was stored in a safe deposit box. Cavaliere plans to sell it in 20 years and give the money to her daughter, perhaps for a trip around Europe. “It’s crazy,” she said, “that I actually own something that Picasso signed for himself.” 

Cavaliere, whose savvy eye for discounts has earned her an impressive following on Instagram and TikTok, called the discovery her “craziest thrift find ever.” Though it’s not the only time she’s struck gold: a few years ago, she purchased an early Alexander McQueen jumpsuit at a flea market for $20. She ended up selling it for over $8,000, she told Newsweek.  

Cavaliere did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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